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How Congenitally Blind Pranav Lal Captures The World Using Sound

On World Photography Day, meet the photographer who uses sound to make sense of the world.

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(This video has been reposted from The Quint’s archives to mark World Photography Day. It was originally published in December 2018.)

Video Editor: Puneet Bhatia
Camera: Abhishek Ranjan and Shiv Maurya

''Never give up on exploration and keep trying different things'' is Pranav Lal’s mantra in life.

On World Photography Day, meet the photographer  who uses sound to make sense of the world.
Pranav Lal wearing his artificial eye and aided with software The vOICe
(Photo: Abhishek Ranjan/The Quint)

Pranav is a cyber-security professional, a photographer, a writer. But something else sets him apart from the rest – his congenital blindness.

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The App That Helps to Visualise

Pranav's father Rajendra Kumar Lal never wanted his son’s blindness to come in his way.

Pranav started using computers in the early 90s and learnt programming by the end of 8th standard. He chanced upon 'The vOICe', a software designed by Dutch inventor BL Meijer, which offers the experience of live camera views through image-to-sound renderings for the visually impaired.

'The vOICe' converts images to sound by scanning them from left to right. It associates elevation with pitch and brightness with loudness.

With proper training, a visually impaired person can understand the shape of an object in front of him, the distance it is placed at and what exactly the object could be.
On World Photography Day, meet the photographer  who uses sound to make sense of the world.
Pranav explaining the working of ‘The vOICe’ on an iOS device
(Photo: The Quint)

Needless to say, Pranav used the ‘vOICe’ to his benefit and found new meaning to his life.

Explaining the working of the technology, Pranav says, “The brain doesn't care from where it gets visual inputs, so when the sound from the ear reaches the brain, the specialised neurons re-recruit themselves for vision.”

With the help of this technology, the visually impaired people can visualise what’s in front of him/her.

Passion for Photography

Pranav started using the vOICe in 2001 and has now mastered its use. He can now visualise his world, and paint a picture through his blogs and photographs.

On World Photography Day, meet the photographer  who uses sound to make sense of the world.
Picture from Pranav’s Blog
(Photo: Pranav Lal)
On World Photography Day, meet the photographer  who uses sound to make sense of the world.
Picture from Pranav’s Blog
(Photo: Pranav Lal)
On World Photography Day, meet the photographer  who uses sound to make sense of the world.
Pranav’s capture while his interview with The Quint
(Photo: Pranav Lal)
On World Photography Day, meet the photographer  who uses sound to make sense of the world.
Pranav’s capture while his interview with The Quint
(Photo: Pranav Lal)

Landscapes are his thing, says Pranav, who avoids portraits because of what he calls 'face blindness'. He can visualise the shape of a face but can’t determine the expressions. The only person he is comfortable clicking is his wife Sacheta.

On World Photography Day, meet the photographer  who uses sound to make sense of the world.
Pranav with his wife Sacheta.
(Photo: Shiv Maurya/The Quint)

Pranav takes about 45 seconds to frame and shoot. He doesn’t really care too much about aesthetics because it is his way to show the sighted how he as a blind person sees the world.

His creativity goes beyond photography and software coding. Pranav has penned many stories, which can be read on The Fiction of Pranav Lal. He has authored seven books and prefers writing novellas.

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